Scott Gorham of Black Star Riders on New CD Another State of Grace – We Don’t Want to Sound Like Anyone Else!

Scott Gorham
Scott Gorham
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Interview by Robert Cavuoto

Black Star Riders will be releasing their fourth CD, Another State of Grace on September 6th via Nuclear Blast.

Building on the success of their previous three releases Heavy Fire [2017], All Hell Breaks Loose [2013] and Killer Instinct [2015] the band has paved the way to be recognized as a powerful force in Rock & Roll.

Another State of Grace provides the perfect combination of hard rock riffs with a tremendous sense of melody. All the songs are sung with a true sense of passion with meaningful and relevant lyrical content.

From the first riff of the CD’s opener “Tonight the Moonlight Let Me Down” to the final sustained chord of “Poisoned Heart” it is apparent that Black Star Riders are at a whole new level with their songwriting. The band consists of Ricky Warwick on vocals, Scott Gorham and Christian Martucci on guitars, Robbie Crane on bass, and Chad Szeliga on drums.

I caught up with guitarist Scott Gorham to talk about their new CD, how they have become better songwriters and the string of Thin Lizzy anniversary shows.

Robert Cavuoto: Before we talk about the new Black Star Riders CD, can you tell me about the string of Thin Lizzy shows you just did with Damon Johnson?

Scott Gorham: It was supposed to be four shows, but unfortunately, we had some severe weather problems here, and one of the shows was canceled. It ended up being whittled down to only three dates. It was all about celebrating 50 years since the formation of the original band, 40 years since the release the album, Black Rose, and 30 years since Phil’s passing. We all miss Phil dearly, so we wanted to pay him homage to our friend. The shows went off great. We had Troy Sanders from Mastodon on bass and Scott Travis of Judas Priest on drums. We completed the three gigs, and both guys want to be members of Thin Lizzy [laughing]. We will see what happens with that in the future. We got a great reaction that makes you want to do more shows, but the thing is we only do Thin Lizzy for special occasions or meaningful things. It’s not a second career as we spend most of our time with Black Star Riders.

Damon came back as we are all still friends. There is always some sort drama or strange animosity when a member leaves or get replaced, but with Damon, he needed to spend more time at home with his two younger kids as we were on the road a hell of a lot. We will always miss Damon, and it was a wrench for him to leave. In place of Damon, we got an amazing guy named Christian Martucci. With the new blood of Christina and Chad Szeliga on drums, you can tell by listening to the CD that we didn’t miss a beat. It’s a new old outfit [laughing]! I don’t quite know how else to put it.

Robert Cavuoto: I didn’t think you could out do Heavy Fire, but you did! The songs are tremendously melodic; they all have great riffs, with memorable hooks. There is not a bad song on it. Any insights on how you pulled it off?

Scott Gorham: We had a different atmosphere in the studio this time. Instead of sitting in Nashville, Tennessee, we moved the operation to Los Angeles and did it with producer, Jay Ruston. We were having a great time, and everyone was contributing to the songs and ideas. Ricky and I really love it to death. I hope it shows on the album.

Robert Cavuoto: Most Black Star Riders riffs have a signature sound and style; something that tells you right away it’s Black Star Riders even before you hear Ricky’s voice. What is that special sound that sets you apart from so many other bands?

Scott Gorham: God, that’s a great question! I wish I knew the answer so I could bottle it up and sell it to a few more people to have their own sound. [Laughing] I think the main thing with Black Star Riders is we tried to carry the Thin Lizzy way of thinking. We do not want to sound like anyone else out there. I think it’s the personnel and the band that contributes to wanting to be different than everyone else. I know my wife when she hears our songs on the radio says it’s completely different sounding than all the other bands being played. I have yet to hear it on the radio to have an opinion. I hope that comes across that we are trying to sound like ourselves and not anybody else.

Robert Cavuoto: As a fan since the inception of the band, I feel you are still evolving musically, do you feel the same?

Scott Gorham: The longer you stay together as a band, the more comfortable that you’re with each other in writing songs and bringing up ideas. You are not afraid to get certain ideas rejected; which happens. You have to grow a thick skin and keep contributing as much as you can. We did this album in a completely different way than Ricky or I have ever done. It came down to Christian who shared something that he did before and wanted to know if we wanted to give it a try. He had been out on the road with Stone Sour and always kept a ProTools set up on his laptop. He would use it on the road to record ideas. He told us to put our musical ideas on our iPhones no matter how long or short and send them to him to glue these bits together as a song. I’m old school, so I thought you all had to be in the same room eyeballing each other and spitballing ideas. I figured let’s give it a shot and sent him my 20-25 ideas and Robbie sent him his ideas. Christian sat on the tour bus in his downtime and glued them together. That gave us a format to work on when we got to rehearses in Los Angeles. You have to remember you only have two weeks to get an album together plus one week prior to rehearse it. In the old days, you would sit in a studio for three months! With timing being of the essence, I started to see the wisdom of doing it this new way. It cut out all the fat as you had 15 songs glued together to rehearse. You knew what songs you were going to gravitate towards with potential fixes and ultimately choose to record on the album. It was so cool; we may take this approach on the next album!

Robert Cavuoto: If I had to pick a favorite track, it would be “Poisoned Heart.” What can you tell me about it and why did you decide to put it as the last track?

Scott Gorham: “Poisoned Heart” is a poignant song about a friend that we all know. He is the kind of guy that when we are in a situation, he is the guy that is always negative. Even if you know there are some negative points to whatever it is that is going on; you try to put a positive to the negative. He was always so negative, and that is what the song is about; him putting the negative to the positive. There are only ten songs on the album; we didn’t go for 15-16 songs. We are hoping that many of the people will listen to the entire album rather than just the ones they hear on the radio or just the first two or three tracks, so we tried to spread the good tracks throughout the album when we were working on the running order.

Robert Cavuoto: I also loved “Tonight the Moonlight Let Me Down,” what can you tell me about that one?

Scott Gorham: That’s a Ricky song. He sent it to us as a demo and we all fell in love with it. It was a pretty instant reaction by the band. It was a sure-fire song that should go on the album. Did you like the song “Why Do You Love Your Guns?”

Robert Cavuoto: I did; it was extremely poignant in today’s times of mass shootings.

Scott Gorham: It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album because of what it’s about and how it was played. It’s about why mass shootings keep happening. Why is there no gun control in America? Why do our children and loved ones have to keep dying because of the Second Amendment? What’s the point to all this murder going on in America because we have a couple of a hundred-year-old document that says we have the right to bear arms. It’s killing our people, and it seems to be getting worse and worse. We are all getting blasé towards it, which is not a good place to be. Ricky grew up around war-torn Belfast, that they called the “Troubles.” He is dead set against the whole gun thing. It’s pretty insightful for any band to put something like that out there. It’s a real statement that all of the band supports. I don’t consider us a political band although Ricky has some political things he wants to say. I agreed with the sentiments of the lyrics and knew it had to go on the album.

Robert Cavuoto: I agree with your opinion and also thought the CD had an anti-war message on many of the songs.

Scott Gorham: It’s a scary time as there is always a war breaking out somewhere. We have to hope that someone, somehow will figures this whole damn thing out.

Robert Cavuoto: I noticed that you ventured away from the band’s vintage pin-up theme on the covers of this CD.

Scott Gorham: We felt we had seen it, done it, and got the t-shirt; so we wanted something completely different. We have a great artist and gave her a set of lyrics to come up with some designs. She showed us a rough proofs and we told her to go for it. We loved it that much.

Robert Cavuoto: Four CDs in, do you feel that you and Rickie are better songwriters and collaborators than when you started?

Scott Gorham: I have no doubt about that. The longer you are together, the easier it is to come up with things. He knows my strengths and weaknesses and I know his. It’s a lot easier to move within that arena along with Robbie. The longer you are together the hell of a lot better you know each other and play together.

Robert Cavuoto: I saw Black Star Riders in March 2018 with Judas Priest and I was hoping the band would have come back by now. Is it logistical or financially challenging to schedule a tour of the US?

Scott Gorham: It’s tough. Next month we start rehearsals for the European tour. This is our main base and we can go out any time we want and sell a shit load of tickets. Most people in Europe know who Black Star Riders are. In America not so much. America is a really tough nut to crack unless you get that ultra fabulous hit single that radio stations play. You can’t walk over to America anytime you want to or you will commit financial suicide. Hopefully, you can get on a big tour where you are exposed to more people than on your own and build a fan base. Maybe in the future, there will be a promoter that will say he needs us to come out to the East or West Coast for a tour. To try and take America on ourselves like the Lone Ranger; it won’t work. It’s too big, it’s too much work and financially you will probably die out there. That sounded pretty bleak didn’t it [laughing]

Robert Cavuoto: Yeah, I was thinking I’m not going to see Black Star Riders unless I travel to Europe.

Scott Gorham: [Laughing] You never know, we may jump on another big name tour like we did with Judas Priest.

Robert Cavuoto: You have been extremely successful with Thin Lizzy and lightening struck a second time with Black Star Riders. Tell me how it feels to have this level of success a second time as some people don’t even get to that point once in their career.

Scott Gorham: You get one bite at that cherry and then you are bagging groceries at Safeway. Thin Lizzy was great for 11 years, several world tours, and stacks of gold record awards. When it was all over, I thought, “What the hell is going to happen now?” I know now how hard it is to start a new band [laughing]. If I knew back then what I know now with Black Star Riders, I would have said, “Hmm, let’s think about this.” [Laughing] For me to play with Ricky, Robbie, Damon, Christian, and Chad all the guys, it feels like a second lease on life and I’m so lucky to hang with these guys. Now we have our fourth Black Star Riders album when we didn’t even know if we would get to a second album! It doesn’t get any cooler than that; I’m blessed to be able to do it.